My friends, the long-term 800-pound gorilla in the room is the national debt, now over $15 trillion and still climbing well above our annual gross national product. This is not sustainable.
My record in the political arena is perfect. I have never won an election in my entire life. In school, I ran for class president at least four times and lost all four. In college, I ran for student government president and lost. Returning home, I ran for school board and came in tenth in a field of 12 running for three vacancies. I ran twice for District Attorney and lost. My next outing was the state Senate, which I lost in a landslide, and then I repeated the same mistake running for the State Assembly with exactly the same result. Capping it all off, I came in third in a three-way race for town supervisor.
I have worked in campaigns to elect Republican, Democrat, Conservative and Independent candidates, all of whom lost.
As a result of these events, I have become an elder statesman who now sets forth to advise everybody else.
My friends, the long-term 800-pound gorilla in the room is the national debt, now over $15 trillion and still climbing well above our annual gross national product. This is not sustainable. Great credit is due our friends in the “Tea Party” who have rightly identified this lurking disaster and demand a solution.
Unfortunately, they then set forth, with the same zeal, to torpedo the very means necessary to solve the problem. Their total unwillingness to compromise blocks every effort to solve the problem and, thereby, redefines the term “blockhead.” Reed and Buerkle, are you listening? On top of all that, they falsely accuse their opponents of “class warfare.” Class warfare is not a proposal to increase tax rates by a couple percentage points on the very wealthy. Real class warfare is 30,000 angry citizens, armed with pitchforks and Molotov cocktails, in front of a gated community in Palm Springs, ready and willing to hang the first one-percenter who ventures forth.
As a goal, I suggest a national debt equal to the debt in place in 1988, at the end of the Reagan years, measured by the ratio of debt to current GNP. We should reduce the annual deficit to zero over five years, and then reduce the overall debt to the benchmark over two decades, rigorously keeping to the schedule. We can stop building bridges to nowhere while keeping in mind that blowing up bridges going somewhere isn’t a very good idea either.
Since the inception of Social Security in the ’30s, our average life expectancy has increased by about 20 years. We should gradually raise the minimum eligibility age from 62 to 65. For those who elect ahead of time to retire at 65, their payroll tax rate may increase from time to time to conform to actuaries. For those who opt for eligibility at age 67, the current payroll tax rate would remain the same. This will give Joe Six Pack a meaningful choice. Pay in more now and receive benefits earlier, or continue paying at the current fixed rate and receive benefits later.
Page 2 of 2 - Instead of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, my 1-2-3 tax plan may make more sense. Raise the income tax rate 1 percent on Social Security benefits received by those earning over $75,000 a year, a form of means test. Raise the rate 2 percent on income over one-half million and 3 percent on income over $1 million. Along with cuts to useless spending, we should be well on our way to long-term solvency.
There is no place for wild-spending ultra-liberals or radicals on the right who insist on a cut-and-slash one-direction solution. Unfortunately, the chances are excellent that any politician who endorses these policies is doomed.
Wes A. Gifford, a lawyer and one of the founders of Sonnenberg Gardens, lives in Canandaigua.